“Whaaa!” I cried out when I saw the news that Peg Bracken has died. My current housekeeping practices, and outlook on life in general, are a natural outgrowth of reading and internalizing her The I Hate to Cook Book (1960; like her others, illustrated by Hilary Knight of Eloise fame), The I Hate to Housekeep Book (1962), and The Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book (1966) as an impressionable twelve-year-old. (I also imbibed her travel book, But I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World!: The Pleasures and Perils of an Unseasoned Traveler, 1973.)
Her influence on me was only compounded by living in the shadow of my mother’s parallel adherence to Bracken’s cooking practices, and, to a lesser extent, her cleaning mores — not to mention my mother’s equally acerbic and irreverant wit.
This excerpt from the I Hate to Cook Book, a recipe for Skid Road Stroganoff, conjures my mother to perfection:
“Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.”
You might think Bracken’s books are much like Erma Bombeck’s, but believe me, they’re not.
Serve veggies to guests with coarse-ground pepper, “because a lot of people feel that anything peppered should look as though it had been fished out of a gravel pit.”
“You watch your friends redoing their kitchens and hoarding their pennies for glamorous cooking equipment and new cookbooks called Eggplant Comes to the Party or Let’s Waltz Into the Kitchen, and presently you begin to feel un-American.”
She recommends freezing maraschino cherries in ice cubes for lemonade at a children’s party, noting that “If there are some left over, they’re good in Old Fashioneds, too.”
Bracken’s banter is still cooking, in the Portland (OR) Tribune, 13 May 2003
Guilty Pleasure #1: Peg Bracken at Horrifying Foodstuffs, 27 July 2005
On Peg Bracken at Apartment Therapy, 4 June 2005
remembering The I Hate to Cook Book, John Kessler in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 27 Sept. 2007, with recipe for Peg Bracken’s Pots de Chocolate
remembering The I Hate To Cook Book at Slashfood, 31 Jan. 2006
remembering The I Hate to Cook Book at Errant Dreams Reviews, 6 Sept. 2006
remembering American cooking in the 1960s, in “Modernism, Sur La Table” by Sandy McLendon at JetSet
Peg’s Recipe for Aggression Cookies, from The I Hate To Cook Almanack
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups oatmeal
Mix like pie crust until soft…Beat it…hit it… pound it… pinch it…squish and squash it. Don’t quit until
you’ve worked all those nasty aggressive feelings out of your system.
Now flatten one-inch balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheets. Use the bottom of a glass dipped in
sugar to flatten. Bake at 350 for about ten minutes.